What is Coconut Milk? The Useful Guide from Beverage to Cream

55

This “what is coconut milk” post is the first in a sponsored series to celebrate this year’s 21 Day Dairy-Free Challenge with So Delicious. The Challenge will run from January 23rd through February 12th, but sign up now for a chance to win a year’s supply of So Delicious Dairy Free, a new coupon each week to make your next meal delicious, dairy-free tips, a dairy-free shopping list and snack guide, and more!

21 Day So Delicious Dairy Free Challenge

I was reading the top food trend predictions for this year, and Whole Foods said coconut will continue to be “one of the hottest ingredients”. Which got me thinking about the number one misstep many of our readers tend to make. They often use the wrong type of “coconut milk” in dairy-free recipes. It’s an honest mistake, but can lead to a disappointing recipe fail. So I’ve created this quick guide to put proper names with details AND visuals. I hope it helps you to ace those recipes and make your own ingredient swaps with ease.

What is Coconut Milk - Quick Guide and Reference to the Beverage, Lite, Regular and Cream

What Is Coconut Milk? Demystifying the Types …

There are four versions of “coconut milk” currently on the market, and it’s essential to understand the differences. I keep each one on hand as they work miracles in dairy-free recipes, but aren’t always interchangeable. If you use coconut milk beverage in a homemade whip, it likely won’t set up. And traditional coconut milk would probably be too rich for your morning bowl of granola. So here’s my easy-to-follow answer to the common question, “what is coconut milk?”:

Coconut Milk Beverage

What is Coconut Milk - Quick Guide and Reference to the Beverage, Lite, Regular and Cream

  • Consistency similar to 2% dairy milk.
  • Sold in shelf-stable and refrigerated packages, in large quart of half-gallon sizes.
  • Everyday multi-purpose uses for drinking, smoothies, and cereal.
  • Can be used in place of dairy milk in most recipes, including baking and sauces.
  • Available unsweetened, sweetened, and in flavors.
  • Adds minimal coconut flavor to recipes.
  • Should NOT be used when a recipe specifically calls for just “coconut milk”. It will not help to thicken, pies, fudge, whip, etc., on its own.

Special Note: You might see some food bloggers label coconut milk beverage as simply “coconut milk”. Please politely ask them to stop doing that, so we can all avoid confusion! 

Lite Coconut Milk

What is Coconut Milk - Quick Guide and Reference to the Beverage, Lite, Regular and Cream

  • A thinner, lower fat version of traditional coconut milk.
  • Thicker, creamier, and slightly higher in fat than coconut milk beverage.
  • Sold in small packages.
  • Not available sweetened or in flavors.
  • Used frequently in Thai recipes.
  • Can be used in place of light cream or half and half in most recipes.
  • May add a hint of coconut flavor, depending on the recipe.

Special Note: So Delicious labels their Lite Coconut Milk as “Culinary” to help further differentiate it from coconut milk beverage. Nonetheless, it is traditional Lite Coconut Milk.

Coconut Milk

What is Coconut Milk - Quick Guide and Reference to the Beverage, Lite, Regular and Cream

  • This is “full-fat” regular coconut milk made from the grated meat of a mature coconut.
  • Sold in small packages.
  • Not available sweetened or in flavors.
  • Has a thick, creamy consistency that doesn’t pour easily, unless heated.
  • Can be used in place of heavy cream in most recipes.
  • Traditionally used in Asian and Tropical cuisines for dishes like curry.
  • Thickens further as it chills, so you must not substitute coconut milk beverage or lite coconut milk in recipes where coconut milk helps in “setting up” or when a very rich or thick consistency is desired.
  • May add some coconut flavor, depending on the recipe.

Special Note: So Delicious labels their Coconut Milk as “Culinary” to help further differentiate it from coconut milk beverage. Nonetheless, it is traditional, good quality Coconut Milk.

Coconut Cream

What is Coconut Milk - Quick Guide and Reference to the Beverage, Lite, Regular and Cream

  • This is thickened coconut milk or coconut milk with even more water removed.
  • To make coconut cream, place coconut milk (the regular kind!) in the refrigerator overnight. Scoop the thick cream that forms from the top.
  • Can be used in place of whipping cream in most recipes. Also works well in chilled desserts that need to set up.
  • Will most likely add some coconut flavor, but this still depends on the recipe.

Special Note: Good quality coconut milk should always separate and thicken to create a fair amount of coconut cream. You should get 1/2 cup to 1 cup of cream per package or can. If it doesn’t then it likely has too many additives or is a poor quality batch. I buy So Delicious Coconut Milk as it reliably produces a heavy amount of coconut cream for me.

What is Coconut Milk? See it in Action!

Understanding Coconut Milk: Beverage to Cream!

Essential Info: Coconut Milk Beverage vs Lite Coconut Milk vs Coconut Milk vs Coconut Cream! (Brightened up video)

Posted by Go Dairy Free on Friday, February 3, 2017

What is Coconut Milk? Pin it to Share & Reference!

What is Coconut Milk - Quick Guide and Reference

About Author

Alisa is the founder of GoDairyFree.org, Senior Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

55 Comments

  1. Pingback: Chocolate Mint Fudge Tartlets (No Bake, 4-Ingredient, 2-Bite Treats!) - Go Dairy Free

  2. Pingback: A Guide to Plant-Based Milks | World of food

  3. Pingback: Menu Plan Monday: January 16, 2017 - Nutritioulicious

  4. What a wonderful guide! Lite coconut milk from the can is my #1 go-to milk. I use it for SO many recipes, both savory and sweet. It’s my favorite to use in pancakes and baked desserts, nothing compares to it! So great to clear this up for those confused on the differences.

  5. Pingback: Everyday Turmeric Smoothie + 10 More Golden Dairy-Free Recipes

Leave A Reply